May 21

Getting back out there, with Jim Klug

My Facebook Memory today was me with a very nice tarpon on a trip I had with Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures and Jim Klug in Cuba. I wrote Jim just to thank him for that experience and we got to talking about fly fishing travel and where things stand now. I sent Jim some questions and he took the time to respond. Thanks for that Jim.

Awesome shot by Jim Klug.

For me it is going to be a while longer. I’m vaccinated and employed, so that’s good, but child care is much more complicated and my wife’s doctor schedule is unpredictable for the time being. We’ll need things to settle a bit before I find myself on a flat, but I am thinking a lot more about it these days… looking at pictures, going through my gear, thinking about what plans I need to set in motion.

Jim provides some insight and good advice in the answers below.

How did Yellow Dog weather the pandemic?

Well … We’re still here!  There is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year for our business and for destination angling in general. We had thousands of trips that were cancelled or postponed 

What did you learn about the travel business and your own company as a result of the pandemic?

We had some interesting and important take-aways from 2020, and we learned some valuable and important lessons about both our business and our customers. All told, Yellow Dog navigated some tricky waters in 2020, and along the way, we identified some key take-aways from the past 16 months:

  1. We learned that for our clients, having a legitimate agent working on their behalf is incredibly beneficial – especially when things get difficult. We saw this play out time and again in 2020. While we were not always able to immediately fix things or deliver the perfect answer for cancelled trips, we worked tirelessly for our customers – operating on their behalf and looking out for their interests. Having an agent like Yellow Dog (the largest creator of trips for many of the lodges in the industry) often-times made a difference. For people that had booked on their own or through a smaller shop or hobby agent, the outcomes – and the solutions offered – were often-times markedly different.

  2. Patience is everything. We’ve learned that tenacity and persistence goes a long way when it comes to re-bookings, re-schedulings and other resolutions. In the beginning of the pandemic, many operators and lodges were unprepared or unable to provide optimal solutions for cancelled or affected trips. Over time, however, we were able to work with many of these operations – on behalf of our clients – to secure better solutions and improved offers. Patience pays!

  3. Being nice matters, and when the shit really hits the fan, you truly see the very best of people, and also the very worst. Luckily, the vast majority of our customers and clients were patient, nice and incredibly understanding throughout the pandemic, realizing that the world shutting down was not our fault nor the fault of the lodges or guides. The entire destination angling infrastructure took a devastating hit in 2020, and – unlike major airlines or cruise ship companies – there were no industry bail-outs or easy money. Every lodge, guide, outfitter and agent was hurt by this, and for every one of our clients who was kind, patient and understanding in the face of cancelled trips and disrupted fishing plans, know that it was very much appreciated!

  4. Trip insurance can help, but it is important to understand the fine print and details.
    For years, trip insurance was the security blanket that promised to make things right if a fishing trip was cancelled or disrupted. And when it came to work conflicts, illness, hurricanes or cancelled flight routes, these policies usually paid off. The problem with trip insurance is that – like all insurance products – the companies know how to cover their asses against big-time cataclysmic events, and way down the list in the fine, fine print of things that were NOT covered was … you guessed it … “worldwide pandemics.” It turns out that most insurance policies would not cover trip cancellations that were pandemic-related, which meant that travelers who seemingly did everything right (booking early, securing a trip with the right deposit, and of course covering themselves with a travel insurance policy) were left hanging when their trips were cancelled due to lodges (and the world) being shut down. Moving forward, we fully expect that travelers will remember this, and we hope that those companies and products that have failed to protect travelers in the pandemic will be replaced by innovative policies and new products which actually deliver. 
  1. Having a solid and healthy destination angling infrastructure is crucial to our sport. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve known that – eventually – things would get back to normal and we’d be able to get back to doing what we love most: traveling and fishing the world. Having a lodge to return to (or your favorite guide still around to fish with) is a big deal, so being supportive of this infrastructure matters. For everyone that accepted a trip roll-over, re-booking fee or new dates, and especially to those that sent along the equivalent of a guide’s tip or donated to industry economic relief efforts, thank you.

Are you seeing the pent-up demand from a year off?

Oh yeah!  Things are absolutely crazy right now. Once January 2021 hit, things started ramping up, and it has only gotten crazier since then. After a brutal 2020, Yellow Dog just closed out a record-setting first quarter of 2021. It was as if someone flipped a switch in early January, and people are now booking and reserving trips at a pace we’ve never before seen. Trip dates are being snatched up as quickly as toilet paper was selling out ten months ago, and the biggest challenges for the year ahead will unquestionably revolve around availability. If you are thinking about planning a trip for the near future – or even 2022 or 2023 – my advice is to start the process now. Getting out in front of the demand will ensure prime dates and great guides at the best lodges and destinations. “Last-minute” trip planning – while still possible – is going to be more of a challenge than in years past. If you know that you want to travel and fish in the near future, then get a jump-start on the planning process and get your dates and destinations on the books.

Many waters got an unanticipated rest over the last year. What are some of the benefits or silver linings after a year-long COVID shut-down?

Obviously, one of the biggest positives that has come from the pandemic is the environmental benefit that comes from literally shutting the world down for months on end. Global satellite images from space in late-2020 showed pollution levels that had dramatically decreased from those of only eight to ten months earlier, showing how nature can heal and recover when we simply reduce our footprint and let the planet do its thing (even for a relatively short period of time). For anglers, the effect of this “global rest” has been evident and abundantly obvious over the past several months in the quality of the fishing and the behavior of fish that we’ve witnessed across the planet. For many of the destinations that have already reopened (Alaska, Belize, the Bahamas, the Yucatan, Costa Rica, the Seychelles and numerous other destinations), we have already seen off-the-charts fishing and numbers that have not been seen in years.  

Were there any operations that didn’t make it through?

That remains to be seen. This is something that will likely play out in the year ahead, but sadly, we are going to see some lodge, outfitters, guides and agents that will likely be gone by the end of 2021. The travel industry and destination angling as a whole were absolutely crushed when the world shut down. People stayed home, lodges closed, and airlines stopped flying. Small business loans and programs designed to keep people employed provided some assistance here in American; however international lodges, guides, outfitters and support businesses were largely left to survive on their own. Many of the guides we’ve fished with and come to know over the years were dealt a serious financial blow, as there was literally no work and no income for most of the year. Some guides were forced to sell their boats. Lodges terminated large numbers of staff, and many in the fly fishing community left the fishing world all together. Every international operation (along with many domestic operations) was hurt by the shut-downs, widespread cancellations and the lack of sales, and it will likely take years to fully recover.

When folks are booking now, do they require proof of vaccination or testing or what is it that has to happen to get back out there?

Proof of vaccination is not required to actually book or reserve anything (at this time) but there are plenty of countries that are requiring proof of vaccination for entry as a tourist. Regardless of how you personally feel about vaccinations, the fact is that life as a traveler and as a traveling angler will for sure be easier in the months (and possibly years) ahead with proof of vaccination. This is going to be true for some time to come with many foreign destinations. 

Are there places that are still closed/highly limited?

For sure, and some that are likely to remain closed into 2022. Right now, New Zealand, Australia and the Cook Islands are all closed indefinitely. Argentina, Chile, India, Canada, Russia, Christmas Island and several other popular fishing destinations are all still closed as well, although we are hopeful that things will open in the months ahead. We’re thinking August for Christmas Island, although that is not a for-sure opening date!

Is there somewhere in particular you are excited to get back to?

For me personally, I’m really excited to get back to the Seychelles for the coming fall season. Honestly, any place that requires a passport stamp is going to get me excited at this point!

Any recent trips that you’ve been able to do?

I actually just returned from an incredible week in the Yucatan, fishing Xcalak and Chetumal Bay. An incredible fishery with some of the best permit fishing I’ve seen in years.

Jim with a permit from his recent trip to Xcalak… on first glimpse I thought it was a GT.

What would you say to the traveling angler who is still hesitant to get back out there?

You need to be comfortable to travel right now, and that is a personal thing for everyone. DO your homework, research what is involved in traveling to a destination, and above all have someone in your corner that can help if problems or unexpected delays pop up. But travel is possible right now, and there is a lot of great fishing that can be accessed and enjoyed in a safe, easy manner. Regardless of your destination, however, when you are ready to get back out there, we are absolutely recommending that anglers begin their planning and booking processes earlier than normal. As a result of losing the entire 2020 season, there are countless trips that have had to be rolled over and rescheduled for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, which means that availability for the foreseeable future will be tight. For those destinations such as the Seychelles, Cuba, prime permit destinations in the Caribbean, and others that were already in high demand, it will be even more important to look ahead and plan well in advance. Even destinations in Belize, the Bahamas and the Yucatan are likely to book up quickly for this season and well into 2022. Our recommendation for those that know they want to get back out there is to start the process now.

Oct 17

A little round up of stuff floating around out there

First, congrats to Yellow Dog’s Jim Klug who recently landed the 2017 Izaak Walton Award given by the The American Museum of Fly Fishing. I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with Jim. He’s solid. Last year’s award winner was super-talented artist and author James Prosek.

Jim + Cuba + Cameras

Second, hope you like that water taxi ride to Caye Caulker, cuz, you aren’t going to be flying there for a while. They are reconstructing the runway on Caye Caulker, ruling that out as a “by air” option for a while. My daughter and I took the ferry/taxi from Belize City last year. It was pretty easy. One of my bags went missing for a couple hours but they assured me they don’t lose bags and they didn’t. Got everything back with only a minor delay. We’ll be heading back in April and we’ll do it by boat again.

Third, and last, more stirrings from the Bahamas as Bahamian guides and lodge owners are complaining about a substantial drop in business, blaming outfitters/booking agents. Talking to some American lodge owners out there over the past year they tell me business is good, but they are working hard for that business. Lots of dollars put into marketing. I’ve seen the uptick in social media presence that would back that up. There is something like a “it takes money (and time) to make money” thing here. There are also some economic headwinds with Bahamian tourists spending 28% less now than they did in 2000. Add to that a season full of hurricanes that likely scared off some tourists and, ya know… people aren’t just going to come on their own. Licenses are still needed and still not available on-line. A lot of angler resentment still exists due to the push by the BFFIA. Add all that up and, yeah, business would be down.

Apr 17

Win a frigging trip to Cuba, via Yellow Dog

Awesome shot by Jim Klug.

I got to go once… and it was amazing. That’s where I got my first adult tarpon. It was a very special trip. You could get to feel that same feeling. Yellow Dog Fly Fishing is giving away THREE free trips to fish Cuba. What an opportunity.

“This could be you! Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures will be giving away THREE (3) all-inclusive fly fishing trips to Cuba for THIS SPRING. There is no purchase required, and no strings attached.

Tune in Monday, April 17th at 9:30am MTS / 11:30am EST to hear Yellow Dog’s Director of Operations, Jim Klug, announce the start to the Cuba Fly Fishing Giveaway via Facebook Live.”

Go on… win yourself a trip to frigging Cuba!


Oct 16

Providence is mind blowing

I got a chance to get a sneak peak at the new film from Confluence Films, Providence, yesterday.

It ruined me for the rest of the day.

You’ve heard of the Seychelles and maybe about the piracy incident that shut down the fishery in 2009. This movie is the story of the re-opening of the fishery.

The fishing looks just insane. How many species do you want to catch and how big would you like them to be? Cuz, the Seychelles has you covered.

You need to see this.


If this film doesn’t fill you with wanderlust, you may want to check your pulse. Just amazing and so on my bucket list.

Mar 16

Getting schooled on photography

Here’s a pretty cool opportunity. Yellow Dog is putting on a photography school… IN BELIZE. How awesome would that be?!?!

Instructors include Jim Klug, Bryan Gregson and Jess McGlothlin.

I’ve had the privilege to be on a boat with Jim and to see his approach to photography (which is the kind of focus the Cookie Monster has toward cookies, and by that, I mean intense and singular).

I know a lot of you want to take better pictures of your time out there and these instructors, and that place (El Pescador, one of my favorite places on earth)… I mean… how could you NOT count that as one of your all-time highlight experiences???

Sounds like an awesome opportunity.

October 22-28, 2016, El Pescador.

Awesome shot by Jim Klug.

Awesome shot by Jim Klug.

Oct 14

Belize, the Book

I got a wonderful gift in the mail late last week, a beautiful book about a beautiful place.

The book is simply called “Fly Fishing Belize” and it is written and photographed by Jim Klug.

Solid work, Jim.

Solid work, Jim.

Belize has a special place in my heart. My first trip, in 2010, got me a grand slam.

The permit. Not a big permit, but a permit.

The permit. Not a big permit, but a permit.

My second trip, in 2012, was my honeymoon.

Honeymoon Bonefish

Honeymoon Bonefish

My wife has agreed we can go back for our 5th anniversary. Just three more years to wait!

I’ve only been to Ambergris, but the book covers the whole of the fishable country. The book is complete with Jim’s fantastic pictures, the rich history of the fly fishing personalities who have worked and played on the waters of Belize.

It is a great book. If you love Belize, and I know many of you do, you should check it out. It will become a treasured possession.

Oct 13

Waypoints Trailer

I know I’m looking forward to seeing this… Waypoints, the next video from Jim Klug and Confluence Films.

This film included footage from St. Brandon’s… yeah… that’s my dream.

Sep 13

From the Archives – My -2″ Cuban Grand Slam

(originally published May 9, 2012)

The tarpon was first and that was clearly the pig of the trip.  After we finally released that fish we went looking for some bonefish.

We found them.

Really, I think the guides could likely produce bones pretty much all day, but they like chasing the tarpon when they are in, since they don’t stick around all year and the window is about three months long.

The bones weren’t big, maybe 3 pounds, but they fought well and we even had one little cluster Fuque where I got a knot in my running line that went through the guides.  Jim worked on getting the knot undone and I hand lined the fish, which meant it had PLENTY of slack.  The thing turned around and started swimming leisurely back toward us. The thing came so close to the boat that I just figured I’d wait and pull it’s head out of the water. That’s exactly what happened and we managed to land the bonefish pretty much without the rod.

The next flat we went to was ocean-side and as I got up on deck Jim asked the guide “you ever see any permit here?”

“Sometimes” was the reply, although it should have been “Sure, in about a minute.”

There was Mr. Permit cruising right toward us.  No time to switch rods, the bonefish fly would have to do (a Peterson’s Spawning Shrimp). The fish lit up on the fly, started chasing it down doing a little erratic dance behind it. I SWEAR it ate, as did Jim, but I was tight to the fly and there was never any sort of resistance on the line. Just like that it bugged off and I was left, about 2″ from a Cuban Grand Slam.

Kind of cool to come so close.  I know it is mostly luck and “right time/right place” that gets you those Grand Slams and I was pretty damn close to getting it right.

That’s why we keep fishing.

Photo by Jim Klug, Tarpon by Cuba

Really… I can’t complain at all.



Dec 12

Obligitory – A look back at 2012

I was reminded by Troutrageous that it was time for me to look back at 2012.

What a year, eh? I had highlights in my personal and fishing lives. It will be a hard year to surpass, really. So many wonderful things happened. I can’t help but feel like a very lucky guy.

Here is what 2012 held for me.

I welcomed 2012 in at the Yaak Tavern in MT where I had the very strong suspicion I had met my future wife.

I got a chance to go to Cuba with Jim Klug and a bunch of writers. Amazing experience that included my magazine worthy Tarpon shot.

Photo by Jim Klug, Tarpon by Cuba

Photo by Jim Klug, Tarpon by Cuba

My divorce got finalized.

I got engaged.

I discovered the joys of pier fishing with my girl who loves sharks and loves being my fishing buddy.

The girl and her shark.

The girl and her shark.

I got married.

A good day.

A good day.

The honeymoon brought me back to El Pescador in Belize.

renee and bjorn El Pescador
I got two saltwater trips in, which for me, being fully employed and having split custody of a 5 year old, is a pretty good trick. Cuba and Belize are kind of choice locations and I feel very fortunate to have been able to visit both in 2012.

It has been a very, very good year.  I’m looking forward to what 2013 will bring.

I have one trip lined up already. This is to Grand Bahama for Spring Break. It will be my intro to the Bahamas for my little girl and my new wife. I’m thinking this could be a good thing.

All the best to you in 2013 and thanks for reading and taking part in the blog.

Dec 12

Interview with Yellow Dog’s Jim Klug about St. Brandon’s Atoll

A year ago I didn’t even know this place existed. Ever since I found out about it and first saw pictures out it I’ve put this place at the top of my dream destinations. I think it is easy to think that the grass is always greener, than the flat a little further out of the way has a bit more life on it and I’ve been fortunate to get to Cuba and Belize and Andros and those places are not shy of amazing bits of bonefishy biomass, but this place, this St. Brandon’s Atoll, I think this may be the pinnacle.

When I heard Jim was headed there to do some filming for his next film project as part of Confluence Films, I knew I needed to hear more from him about his trip.  He agreed to answer some questions about his trip and here they are (you can also see his full photo album here).

St. Brandon’s Atoll seems to be very, very far away. What was the travel like to get there?

It was a long trip, to say the least.  Bozeman to Minneapolis, and then the 11 hour flight to Paris.  A 10 hour layover in Paris, and then a 12 hour flight to the island of Mauritius.  We overnighted there, and then departed the following afternoon on the boat for St. Brandon’s. It’s a large, sturdy boat (about 100 ft.) but it still feel damned small in the big waters of the Indian Ocean. The “crossing” from Mauritius to St. Brandon’s takes anywhere from 25-30 hours, depending on the size of the seas.  Bottom line is that it takes some serious time to actually arrive on the flats of St. Brandon’s; in our case about four solid days of travel.  That said, it is more than worth it.  I would hop on a plane and do it all again tomorrow if I could!

Just a nibble. (Photo by Jim Klug)

Once you got there, all that way there, was there anything you thought “Man, I should have brought X.”?

Not really. We were pretty prepared once we arrived, but I guess that comes from many years of traveling and many years of forgetting things!  Probably the biggest thing that we ended up short on was good coffee!  Other than that, I would say that key pieces of equipment and gear for St. Brandon’s would include the following:

  • Heavy duty wading boots and neoprene guards to go over the top of your boots and heavy socks.  You definitely do NOT want the thin-soled wading boots or booties over there.  There are thing like stone fish and poisonous cone shells that will flat out kill you if you step on them, so your footwear needs to be heavy duty.
  • Heavy duty hooks (the Owner or Gamakatsu’s) for the GT flies are key.  If you have cheap hooks or hooks that are too thin, you’re out of luck.
  • Tropical floating fly lines are the go-to set-up, and you will definitely want to bring a few back-up lines as well. Several lines are lost each and every week out there to huge, unstoppable fish! 
  • A good waterproof boat bag is key, as you and your gear do get wet in the small “tenders” that they use to run between flats. If you have camera gear, bring a Pelican case for the boat as well.
  • Plenty to read, and a few DVD’s as well.  You spend four days of travel on each end of the trip, so bring plenty of books. There is a TV and DVD player on the boat as well, so bring some movies for the crossing.
  • A lot of the people on the trip brought some heavy duty sleeping pills for the flights and for the crossing.  I have personally never been able to take anything, but this is something that may come in handy on long trips like this.
  • Basic flats clothing.  Cover yourself from head to toe with pants, long sleeved shirts, Buffs, hats and gloves.  The sun down there is fierce, and you are on the flats ALL day long. They do have daily laundry on the boat, however, so you can still pack light.
  • Bring your liquor of choice. Beer and sodas are included, but you will want to pick up any liquor at the Mauritius or Paris Duty Free stores.

I’d imagine there isn’t much fishing pressure out there. Do you have any idea how much pressure there actually is out there?

Zero pressure.  The guys at Flycastaway have the exclusive concession on the entire atoll.  Locals Mauritians with their own boats are allowed to go there, but the crossing is a big deal in anything but a large boat, and once there, you really have to know where to fish, when to fish, what the tides are doing etc. These guys have spent years figuring out the fishery out there, which is the reason that they are so dialed in.  They host a handful of groups in the spring, and again in the fall. Sometime only 6-8 groups a year.  The atoll itself is HUGE; there are still vast areas of the Atoll where these guys have never fished or even explored.  At a maximum of eight anglers per week, in an eco-system of this size, you can do the math on the total amount of angling pressure that the atoll sees.

From what I can tell, those Indo-Pacific Permit, are actually a species of Pomapano that look pretty much identical to Permit. How Permity were those Permit?

I am not a fisheries biologist, but I have been around permit a fair bit. To me, these looked like permit, acted like permit, and refused flies like permit!  The colorations of the fish are different (they are bit more “yellow-ey”) but other than that, they look exactly the same.  St. Brandon’s had a ton of permit, and – according to the guys at Flycastaway – this is the largest concentration that they have found anywhere in the entire Indian Ocean. As far as behavior goes, they act, eat, fail to eat, and piss you off exactly the same as their Caribbean cousins.  We did – as a group – manage to catch several over the course of the week.  They are an awesome looking fish, for sure.

There she is. (Photo by Jim Klug)


What’s the variety of fishing like there?

The diversity is amazing. The bonefish are truly huge, and they are EVERYWHERE! On top of that, you have Giant Trevally (GT’s), blue-fin trevally, spotted trevally, permit, triggerfish, several different types of sharks, gar-fish, several types of Emperor fish, and a few other types of trevally. That is perhaps the coolest thing about St. Brandon’s – the variety and diversity of species.

Cool looking fish. (Photo by Jim Klug)

What was the most surprising thing about fishing in St. Brandon’s?

To me, it really felt like we were the first ones to ever fish there.  It is a prime example of what a flats fishery could be if it were totally  untouched by the hand of man. It is remote as can be, and it takes some serious effort to get there, but it is 100% worth it.  The other thing that really blew me away was the quality of the Bonefishing.  Six and seven pound fish are routine there. Legitimate, double-digit fish are caught on a daily basis. The bones also eat with reckless abandon, as if they have never seen a fly before (which they haven’t). I can’t tell you how many bones were caught at our feet; scenarios where the leader was literally inside the rod guides and the fish ate the fly within three feet of the tip-top. Truly amazing.

Damn. That’s a nice bonefish. (Photo by Jim Klug)

You’ve got yourself to some pretty remote places. How does this place compare?

It’s up there, for sure! You definitely felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. Its also one of the few fishing destinations these days that allows you to totally and legitimately disconnect from everything. No cell phones, no Wi-Fi or satellite internet, no boat traffic …. You have the entire place all to yourself.

That trip isn’t a cheap one and the time commitment is substantial. There are plenty of places that offer fantastic fishing, so what is the thing that makes this destination worth the added investment?

Hands-down this is the finest Bonefishing on the planet.  The numbers and size are both mind-blowing.  On top of that, you have the opportunity for GT’s, permit, other types of trevally – all on a daily basis and at any given time!  The ecosystem itself is pristine and untouched, which is something to see. Sadly enough, that is getting harder and harder to find these days.  I’m looking forward to going back over there next year, and we’re excited to be adding this to the Yellow Dog line-up for future bookings. I typically hate the phrase, “Trip of a lifetime,” as I believe it is over-used on every level. That said, this is a trip that legitimately falls into that category.

Awesome trip Jim. Awesome.